The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 65 I n any other season, Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickin- son would be an early contender for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. In just his first seven contests, Dickinson emerged as a freshman phenom, combining production, consistency, efficiency and bal- ance. He averaged 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, scoring in double digits in every appearance and hauling in at least seven boards in all but one. He posted an excellent 124.8 of- fensive rating (100 is about average) on a 25.0 usage rate (20 is considered average) mostly due to his array of moves at the rim. He anchored the best two-point defense in the Big Ten. And he did all of this despite starting and exceeding 25 minutes played only twice through Dec. 28. Those are the numbers of a player who generally would be one of the best in the Big Ten. Yet Dickinson would not be found on most All-Big Ten teams crafted at this point of the season. Incredibly, it would not be an outright snub either. Although the Big Ten may not have an elite team (see: Gonzaga and Baylor), the league is absolutely loaded with elite players. According to's Player of the Year algorithm, the three most valuable players in the country — and five of the top 10 — belong to the Big Ten. None of them are Dickinson. The leader should not surprise anyone. Iowa senior center Luka Garza is having one of the finest (of- fensive) seasons in recent memory, leading the nation in scoring at 28.8 points per game as of Dec. 28. His efficiency was off the charts with a 140.2 offensive rating on a 31.5 usage rate. If he can sustain it, his offensive rating would be the best — by far — in's player database (since 2004) with a usage rate of at least 20 percent, let alone 30 percent. That is extraordinary. Garza was also averaging 10.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He is the pro- hibitive favorite not only to win Big Ten Player of the Year but to also sweep the national player of the year circuit. Other Big Ten competitors on Ken-'s Player of the Year stand- ings also have posted otherworldly statistics like Garza. Illinois junior wing Ayo Dosunmu had recorded 24.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.2 as- sists per game with a 121.1 offensive rating and 30.9 usage rate. Minnesota junior guard Marcus Carr was in the same realm as Dosunmu with 24.0 points, 6.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds an outing with a 122.3 offensive rating on a 28.4 usage rate. Rutgers junior for- ward Ron Harper Jr. (23.4 points, 7.1 boards and 2.1 assists) has been nearly as efficient as Garza with a 136.3 of- fensive rating (ORTG) on a slightly smaller — but still significant — of- fensive load (23.5 usage rate, or USG). This list also does not include Ohio State sophomore forward E.J. Lid- dell (15.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 125.3 ORTG, 25.6 USG), Northwestern sophomore guard Boo Buie (14.4 points, 5.3 assists, 123.3 ORTG, 24.2 USG) or Wisconsin senior center Mi- cah Potter (121.6 ORTG on 26.2 USG). The stat lines for these players and Dickinson are not typical for the Big Ten. In the 17 seasons from 2004-20, there were nine times when no athlete from the conference had an offensive rating above 120 with a usage rate of at least 24 percent, and not once did more than two Big Ten players accomplish that feat in a season. Yet through Dec. 28, there were an astounding seven league players on pace to do it this year (Garza, Liddell, Dickinson, Buie, Carr, Potter and Dosunmu). To put it another way, the only Big Ten players from 2013-20 that used at least 24 percent of their team's pos- sessions and finished with a better offensive rating than Dickinson's cur- rent offensive rating were National Player of the Year award winners Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin (126.2 ORTG on 28.1 USG in 2015) and Den- zel Valentine of Michigan State (125.7 ORTG on 28.9 USG in 2016), and second-team All-American selection Yogi Ferrell of Indiana (124.9 ORTG on 24.8 USG in 2016). Although it is possible that Dick- inson — and the others — will see their numbers decline during a tough Big Ten slate, that is his cur- rent company. With Dickinson be- ginning to receive more minutes as a starter, his raw production should increase as long as his conditioning can handle the extra five to 10 min- utes per game. He could average 18 points and 10 boards per game. In any other season in recent his- tory, Michigan would have the early favorite to win the Big Ten Player of the Year on its roster. That is how good Dickinson has been for the Wolverines so far. But this year, five or six other Big Ten schools, particu- larly Iowa, can also say the same. That is how special the Big Ten's best players are this season. ❑ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT Hunter Dickinson Among Big Ten's Best Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett. Through his first seven contests, Dickinson averaged 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. As of Dec. 28, those clips ranked tied for 11th, sixth and fifth, respec- tively, in the Big Ten. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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